‘Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ’yo’
This is the complete title of the book that contains the biographical profiles of persons who fought and lost their lives during the martial law years: “Ang Mamatay Nang Dahil Sa ’Yo: Heroes and Martyrs of the Filipino People in the Struggle Against the Dictatorship, 1972-1986, Volume 1.” Many of these persons were killed while in the promising chapter of their youth. Their names are etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani compound in Quezon City.
The book was published by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) upon the initiative of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation.
The title comes from the last line of the Philippine national anthem “Lupang Hinirang,” whose march-like tune was composed by Julian Felipe in the late 1800s. Thank goodness that in the early 1950s President Ramon Magsaysay had the Spanish and English lyrics translated into Filipino. Julian Cruz Balmaceda and Ildefonso Santos did the job.
“Aming ligaya na ’pag may mang-aapi/ Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ’yo.” My biased translation: “To vanquish the oppressors, we will joyfully offer our lives and die for you.” For you, the motherland. Tierra adorada, land of the morning, bayang magiliw.
And so they did, 227 of them included in the book. They are those whose names were etched on The Wall from 1992 to 2000.
There are now a total of 268 names on The Wall, and more could be added. There are others whose names are already on The Wall (and not yet in the book) who died of causes other than bloody martyrdom, but their lives were nonetheless dedicated to freeing the country from the Marcos dictatorship. Their stories will be in the succeeding volumes.
I quickly go over the table of contents and I realize that I had written about a good number of those in this first volume, either as individuals or as part of a group, in long features and news stories for national publications.
Among those I had come to know either in life or because of the manner of their deaths, and, yes, by writing their stories: Zacarias Agatep, Benigno Aquino Jr., Ferdinand Arceo, Macli-ing Dulag, Jose W. Diokno, Tulio Favali, Mary Virginia Gonzaga, Hermon Lagman, Mary Catherine Loreto, Raul Manglapus, Jose JBL Reyes, Mary Concepcion Conti, Mary Consuelo Chuidian, Lorenzo Tañada, Emmanuel Lacaba, and more. I wrote lengthily about two of them—how they lived and died—and found myself in big trouble with the Marcos military.
A good number whose names are on The Wall, among them Sr. Christine Tan, RGS and Sr. Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC, will surely be in Volume 2. I have written about these two heroines, whom I knew very closely when they were alive.
This first volume and the next would indeed be handy resource books on heroism for the young, especially those who know little or nothing about the tyranny of the Marcos military dictatorship, its destructive effects, the scars and unhealed wounds that remain. Who is the parent who has not stopped hoping that a disappeared son or daughter will one day turn up alive, or that their remains will be found? Who is the survivor of the martial law years who does not remember with pain the comrades who fell in the night, friends who fought with them and suffered with them in prison? Who does not weep when remembering loved ones whose lives were cut short because they cried “Freedom”?
In the book’s preface, NHCP Chair Maria Serena I. Diokno tells us: “Nothing brings the past to life better than stories about those who lived in it. This book tells such stories. The past spoken of, however, is no ordinary past, but the most trying of times in our national postwar history. This book speaks about martial law, not from the standpoint of the dictatorship and neither from that of historians who study it, but from the perspective of Filipinos who challenged the denial of their rights and paid the price for their love of freedom and of our people.
“These women and men, from all walks of life, of different ages, and from different parts of the country, shared a singular purpose: to assert their liberties in the face of a regime that unlawfully arrested and tortured Filipinos perceived as enemies, causing some of them to disappear from the face of the earth, never to be found.”
The brief biographical profiles were drawn from materials in Bantayog’s archives, consisting mainly of interviews with relatives, friends and colleagues, testimonials, published accounts and other secondary sources. Websites such as those maintained by the Jose W. Diokno Foundation and the Lorenzo M. Tañada Foundation were great sources of information.
If I were a history teacher, I would encourage my students to pick particular names and stories in the book and dig deeper into the life and times of these subjects in the archives. What a learning experience it would be. While at it, they could learn about the Never Again, Never Forget project.
The Bantayog ng mga Bayani memorial shrine (corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue) is a great starting point for a history walk. There one will see a 45-foot bronze monument created by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo. The monument depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son. Some meters away is the commemorative wall with the names of heroes and martyrs who fought and died to restore freedom, justice and truth that were lost during the dark days of martial rule.
During the unveiling of The Wall in 1992, former Senate president and Bantayog chair emeritus Jovito Salonga stressed: “A nation is measured by the quality of men and women it honors. Because of these heroes and martyrs, we can stand up with pride and work together, with heads unbowed, knowing that we are honoring ourselves and our nation, more than we are honoring them.”
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